March 28, 2017 Articles

The Indian Child Welfare Act and the Need for Reform

Poor health conditions on tribal land have been an ongoing and tragic issue for decades.

By Hanna Kim

The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), which was enacted in 1978 in response to the removal of thousands of Native American children from their tribal homes, sought to protect Native American children’s health and welfare while promoting the stability of Indian tribes and families. The law required state agencies to place abused, neglected Native American children in Native American homes that reflect their unique values of Indian culture. However, the law was vulnerable to much interpretation by state agencies and courts; child welfare services had great discretion in determining whether a child’s welfare or health was at risk and oftentimes reached conclusions without fully assessing the tribe’s cultural practices and norms. Therefore, in 2016, the U.S. Department of the Interior issued new regulations to ensure better implementation of the ICWA.

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